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Sheikh Hasina: An Emerging Dictator

Ever since the 2014 sham elections in Bangladesh, it was a huge question mark whether Sheikh Hasina could still be considered a ruler of a democratic country or not. However, recent events have demonstrated that Sheikh Hasina is in fact no democrat but rather is an emerging Asian dictator who is aligned with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

According to recent reports, Bangladeshi Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia, who has been struggling with Sheikh Hasina to rule Bangladesh for decades, is set to get 5 years imprisonment on corruption charges. The implication of this decision is that during a critical election year in the South Asian country, the main opposition leader will not be able to run against ruling Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during a time when the Awami League ruler’s popularity is at an all-time low and when Khaleda Zia as the widow of a former military ruler has gained increased prominence.

Given this reality, those who are associated with the Bangladeshi Opposition claim that the charges against Khaleda Zia are a sham specifically designed to undermine her ability to compete against Sheikh Hasina in the upcoming elections since Bangladeshi law bars someone who is sentenced to more than two years behind bars from running for office. Israeli Druze diplomat Mendi Safadi, the head of the Safadi Center for International Relations and Public Diplomacy, proclaimed following the conviction of Khaleda Zia: “It is true that there is an ideological gap between us and Khaleda Zia but we oppose the decision to stop her for the same reason that we oppose any other political arrest. Every citizen of the country has the right to conduct legal political activity and political activists must not be arrested because their views are contrary to the government’s position.”

“Many friends have been arrested because of their legitimate political activity,” Safadi added. “I myself have been persecuted for legitimate political activity for the sake of my people and for a good future for Bangladesh. We must not remain silent on the government’s oppression and should work for human rights, democracy and freedom in the country. The government of Sheikh Hasina violates all our rights. It uses oppression, terrorism and ethnic cleansing against minorities. It is time to stand up and to say we will not agree to this oppression. We want a fair leadership that respects us as citizens, even if we do not agree on the same ideology. Even if we are in the opposition, we have the right to conduct political activity.”

“After all of the human rights violations that occurred until the arrest of Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia, it seems like we have no choice but to go for mass demonstrations in the streets of Bangladesh, to lead a revolution against Sheikh Hasina’s government and to demand protection from the free world,” Safadi noted. “God bless the people of Bangladesh!”

Around the same period of time that Khaleda Zia was arrested, it has emerged that the Sheikh Hasina government is increasingly building up ties with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, another democratically elected leader who transformed his country into an unfree dictatorship. Last September, Turkish First Lady Emine Erdogan visited Rohinya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh. In addition, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu invited Bangladesh to open up their doors to assist Muslim Rohinya refugees and even offered to pay for the expenses associated with such a gesture but Turkey offered no such humanitarian gesture to the Hindu Rohingya, who have been ethnically cleansed from their homes and live under horrendous conditions in Bangladesh presently.

Soon after Erdogan highlighted his humanitarian concern for the Muslim Rohingya but not the Hindu Rohingya in Bangladesh, Turkey proceeded to attack the Kurds in Afrin and the ancient Temple of Ain Dara. The attack was strongly condemned by Syria’s Archaeological Survey Office. Mamum Abdul Karim, a former Syrian antiquities official, said that tourists used to be attracted to visit the lion sculptures in the temple, emphasizing that the attack on Ain Dara was a major loss and was en par with the destruction of the Temple of Bel in Palmyra. The Temple of Ain Dara is considered a UNESCO world heritage site in danger. The ancient temple dates back to the times of King Solomon and was considered by archaeologists to be a living monument to how King Solomon’s Temple could have looked like.

“The damage to Ain Dara is tragic,” Brian Daniels, co-director of the Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq Project, told Artnet News. “It does not strike me that there has been a particular lull in cultural destruction, only that it has been less reported and specifically less ISIS driven since the collapse of that group’s organization.”

Like Erdogan’s attack upon Ain Dara, Sheikh Hasina’s government is similarly not disturbed whenever historic Hindu temples are destroyed within her country. Shipan Kumer Basu, the head of the Hindu Struggle Committee, related: “Every day, Hindu women are gang raped and Hindu homes are being burnt down. The present government has no qualms about that and also ensures that there is no news going out on the persecution of minorities within the country. If any journalist publishes news on this issue, he or she will be punished. We need help to ensure the future of the minorities of Bangladesh.”



Rachel Avraham
Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights. For 7 years, she has been an Israel-based journalist, specializing in radical Islam, abuses of human rights and minority rights, counter-terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Syria, Iran, Kurdistan and other issues of importance. Avraham is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media," a ground-breaking book endorsed by Former Israel Consul General Yitzchak Ben Gad and Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara that discusses how the media exploits the life stories of Palestinian female terrorists in order to justify wanton acts of violence. Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She received her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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